Sleep Twitching

Sleep twitching happens when…

You are drifting into a peaceful sleep, while images start playing around in your mind.
Suddenly you feel like you have tripped down a step…and your whole body twitches like a fish out of water and wakes you up!

Sound familiar?

Yes…we have all experienced sleep twitching, sleep starts or hypnic jerks as they are medically referred to. And as far as jerks go, these ones are definitely annoying enough to get your attention.

Researchers are not entirely sure why sleep starts occurs…but there are several theories on the subject.

The first one states that these twitches are a normal progression from being awake to being asleep. As you fall to sleep your body’s physiology changes to prepare for rest, i.e. your breathing rate, temperature and muscle tone changes. Perhaps the twitches are just a product of these muscle changes.

The second theory states that as you are falling asleep there is a point where your muscles are really relaxed and your brain responds to this change as an indication that you are falling and tells your muscles to move to inhibit a fall.

These sleep twitches are quite often accompanied by quick images of falling and are likely just quick hallucinations or similar to daydreams rather than dreams.

Sleep starts are common, affecting 80% of the population on occasion.

These sleep starts or muscle movements can also occur during REM sleep, the sleep when dreams occur as well. They are less common during sleep and are generally a sign of a more severe sleeping problem such as REM Behavior Disorder or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder.

1.REM Behavior Disorder (RBD)

During REM sleep we experience a muscle paralysis, to inhibit body movements that could endanger us while we sleep and dream. During this time all voluntary muscle activity stops. However, in people with RBD their muscles do not relax, remaining active, resulting in violent muscle spasms and jerking while asleep as they are acting out their dreams.
For more information on REM sleep click here.

2.Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

This is also characterised by twitching sometimes violently during sleep. Movements are quite often repeated every 30 seconds or so for an hour or sometimes even longer. And this pattern can sometimes repeat a number of times throughout the night.
For more detailed information on sleep problems click here

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